iPhone gets its game on

iTunes sells games for the iPhoneAs Michael, our mobile expert, pointed out last week, the Apple launch of AppStore for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a big deal. But it is especially so for gaming. At launch, there were 197 games, over 35% of the total available applications. In the first three days of the 3G’s release, a million units were sold worldwide. Consider that the Wii only sold 600,000 units in the first eight days, and had only 21 games at launch (admittedly, the comparison is slightly unfair – the Wii launched in different regions at different dates, whereas the iPhone had an international launch).

Some of the games are produced by big league names: SEGA has a release of their Monkey Ball series, NAMCO has a Ms. PAC-MAN, EA has a version of Tetris, Vivendi Games has a Crash Bandicoot racing game. Currently, the second most popular game is actually a free advergame called iPint, branded for Carling beer. Independent developers have offerings as well – one of my personal favorites is an application that uses the accelerometer to detect running or jumping, and plays the appropriate sound from the original Super Mario Brothers. The range of the applications shows developers are thinking about the phone in much the same way developers are attempting to tackle the Wii’s unconventional controls.

While the AppStore looks to be extremely promising as an emerging mobile platform, there are some roadblocks worth mentioning. The carrier-exclusivity of the iPhone restricts the total growth of the device. In-game dynamic advertising is theoretically possible, but there are connectivity and tracking issues which would need to be addressed. Finally, the AppStore is already facing issues with overpopulation and underhanded activity by developers.

I’d advise any advertisers who are thinking of creating a mobile advergame to consider the iPhone SDK and AppStore. The number of free games are slim, and the demand for quality software is still large. However, currently only a handful of developers have distribution access to the AppStore, as the gates are still in the process of opening.